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A Story Takes Bloom

Another major update to the property was the installation of an irrigation system, meaning that the next generation of Mellons can enjoy the gardens without having a football team’s-worth of gardeners on call. Perennials and shrubs became the focus, moving the landscape away from high-maintenance vegetable, fruit, and flower-producing plants. 

The famed Putnam House gardens also have taken a huge step into the modern century with horticulture identification tags throughout the garden: The kitchen garden located just off the Putnam Kitchen is full of herbs, medicinals, citrus and tropicals. Night-Blooming Jasmine dance with Italian White Sunflower in the breezes that flow in from Osterville’s East Bay. Borage, lavender and thyme provide sensory-rich beds for potted lemon. “There are dozens of plants, and at times that can be overwhelming,” explains MacMullan. Each ID tag has a QR code that can be scanned by a smartphone, transporting inquisitive gardeners to a website detailing all the sumptuous recipes they can make using each specific plant. “Aim your iPhone at lavender and find a drink recipe for a Lavender Lemon Drop Martini or aim it at sage for a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Ham,” says MacMullan. “It gives our clients a fun way to interact with their garden as a family, and for us, it allows our team at MainStay to change up the space on an annual basis without confusing people with new plants.” 

“Gardening on the Cape is spectacular; when you can do it with a view of Dead Neck and Nantucket Sound, it’s even more so,” enthuses MacMullan. “Mrs Mellon set us up for success. When she first constructed the gardens in the 70s she trucked in Barnstable farm soil for days. We’ve dug in the garden, in some instances four feet down and have never hit sand. That’s remarkable when your garden is only 100 feet away from the ocean.” Ultimately, MacMullan says that the best part of what he does is the joy it brings to MainStay’s valued partners: their clients. Working with a family that prioritizes gardening at the highest level as the Mellons do creates a unique luxury and cherished partnership for MainStay — one that is sure to produce many more stories for the Oyster Harbors treasure trove. 

Bunny’s flawless taste was, like the fantastic worlds she created, natural. And as those worlds, naturally, begin to fade away, it becomes the task of landscapers like Jay MacMullan and his team to bring their own modern twist to the preservation of her legacy—and her gardens. A perfect garden occupies only a fleeting moment in time, but the story it creates has the potential to last an eternity. And so, as the pirates and the whalers wage their battles, on land an opulent garden takes root, and as the blooms unfurl, a story begins. 

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